KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Madison McFarland drove the lane and threw up a shot as she absorbed a foul.
Somehow, her off balance attempt fell threw the net.
The senior on the North Clarion girls basketball team then calmly stepped to the line and drained the free throw for a pivotal three-point play in overtime that gave the Wolves the lead for good on the way to a hard-fought 49-45 road win over depleted Karns City on Tuesday night.
“Maddie came up big with that,” said North Clarion coach Terry Dreihaup. “It was a nice shot — I’m not sure how it went in, but it went in and I’ll give it to her. She made a couple of free throws here at the end and the girls fought hard.”
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McFarland scored five of her six points on the night in overtime, including 3-of-3 from the line.
“Coach called a timeout and he said, ‘Don’t think, just shoot,’” McFarland said. “That’s what I did and it fell for me. Very fortunate for that.”
North Clarion needed every one of McFarland’s OT points to escape with a win on a night the Wolves trailed for most of the game.
After jumping out to a 9-2 lead, North Clarion watched as Karns City stormed back with a 7-0 run to tie it.
The Wolves were up 13-9 at the end of the first quarter, but again the Gremlins battled back, closing the half with an 8-2 spurt to lead 25-19 at the break.
Karns City moved ahead 34-27 early in the fourth before North Clarion went on a 10-0 run, highlighted by a deep 3-pointer by Emma McFarland — Madison’s twin sister — to take a three-point lead.
Emma McFarland has had a penchant this season for launching 3-pointers from a different area code — she has seemingly unlimited range and teams have taken notice.
“They did a good job guarding me out there,” Emma McFarland said. “A lot of teams have adjusted, but it just opens up everybody else in the middle. Once I started passing, they moved in and they just left me open.”
Dreihaup said he challenged his team in the locker room at halftime after a lackluster first two quarters.
“I said, ‘Listen, we have to play better in the second half or we’re coming out of here with a loss,’” Dreihaup said. “They kind of persevered and battled through it and fought hard and played well together and they pulled it out.”
But before that, the Gremlins had one more rally in them.
Karns City tied the game at 40-40 on a free throw by Naomi Venesky with 40 seconds on the clock, then had a chance to win it in regulation, but Brooklynn Taylor’s running left-handed shot at the buzzer was off the mark.
Savanna Prescott’s jumper knotted the game at 42-42 in overtime, but Madison McFarland’s three-point play sparked North Clarion and sent the Wolves on the way to closing out the game.
Lily Homan led North Clarion (17-1) with 19 points — eight coming in the first quarter. She also had a number of key steals. Emma McFarland pitched in 11.
Karns City (11-6) was playing without starter Chloe Fritch, who scored 28 points in the first meeting between the two teams. Fritch suffered a concussion in that game 11 days ago.
She isn’t expected back until next week.
The Gremlins were also without key reserves Shae Pistorius and Taylour King.
“I tell you, hats off to Karns City,” Dreihaup said. “They’re shorthanded with injuries and they gave us a really good fight tonight. We just have to be better.”
The loss spoiled an outstanding effort by Karns City senior Emma Dailey, who had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Dailey scored just two points in the meeting at North Clarion.
“That was a bitter pill for her up there. She knew she could have played better and she felt like she had something to prove,” said Karns City coach Steve Andreassi. “I think recently she’s got this little attitude that she needs to prove something. She has this chip on the shoulder and this will that we’ve all seen on the soccer field that we saw tonight on the basketball court.”
Taylor added nine points and Prescott eight for Karns City, which also went to the wire with North Clarion the last time, falling 51-47.
“We outplayed them for almost three quarters,” Andreassi lamented. “We turned the ball over way too much in the third quarter. Their experience probably got to our inexperience. We were in a battle with that team. We had them on the ropes and I think it was experience versus inexperience down the stretch. Kudos to them. But I’m more proud of my team than you’ll even know.”